Veteran cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle has picked his Test team of 2021, featuring players who shined in their respective roles this year. Bhogle has gone with a maximum of three stars from India, followed by two from Pakistan, and one each from England, Australia, Sri Lanka, West Indies and New Zealand.
Starting with the openers, Bhogle picked India’s Rohit Sharma and Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne. Both Rohit and Karunratne are the second and third highest scorers, respectively, in 2021. The Mumbaikar has scored 906 runs in 11 matches, while Karunaratne made 902 in 7 games.
“When I saw him (Dimuth Karunaratne) first, I thought there is something about Karunraratne. And he was the most frustrating players to watch up and down the order. Finally, he hot runs behind him, but I’ve gone with two players. I thought Rohit Sharma was a standout opening batsman this year, always good in home conditions, but in England this year, he was in a different league,” said Bhogle on Cricbuzz.
When it comes to the middle-order, Bhogle went with Australian batting sensation Marnus Labuschagne, England skipper Joe Root, Pakistan star Fawad Alam and Indian wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant.
Labuschagne recently dethroned Root to become the number one Test batter. In five matches so far, the Aussie has scored 525 runs at an average of 75. Although, Root has overall great numbers behind him. The Englishman has crossed the 1600-run mark after he smashed fifty in the ongoing third Ashes Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Similarly, Fawad (571 runs in 9 matches) and Pant (706 runs in 11 games) have also shown consistent performances this year.
“He (Labuschagne) is just in fantastic form. His numbers are very good. He got runs against India and England, so Labuschagne at three was easy. The easiest, of course, was Joe Root. When he played well, England were competitive, when he didn’t play well, there was nothing to look forward to. Every match that England won, Joe Root had a huge contribution.
“He kept making runs in domestic for a long time, but his side didn’t pick, and he sort of became a cult figure in his country. Had a very peculiar stance, you looked at him and said, ‘right how he is going to score runs’?. He made three hundreds in this year, and it was a joy watching Fawad Alam bat. I’ve gone with Rishabh Pant at number six. I went with him because he played game-changing innings, whether it was almost pulling it off in Sydney, that fantastic inning in Brisbane, then he got a 90 and a hundred against England and his wicketkeeping also went to another level,” added Bhogle.
For the number seven and eight, Bhogle picked proper all-rounders in the form of Jason Holder and Ravichandran Ashwin. Holder bagged 22 wickets in eight matches and scored 362 runs with two fifties. Ashwin, on the other hand, rocked the bowling charts by claiming the highest 52 wickets this year in just 8 matches and made 337 runs, including one century and a fifty.
“I looked for seam bowling all-rounders, and I couldn’t look further than Jason Holder. He didn’t concede runs, and I think he is a proper batsman coming in at number seven. Number eight is my spinner, and there was one spinner who was better than everybody else. In fact, in many ways, he was probably the all-rounder of the year. I’ve gone with Ravichandran Ashwin at number eight,” asserted Bhogle.
When it comes to the fast bowling line-up, Bhogle went with Pakistan pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, South African speedster Anrich Nortje and New Zealand paceman Kyle Jamieson. Afridi is the second-highest wicket-taker this year, with 47 scalps to his name in nine games. Similarly, Nortje bagged 25 wickets in five matches, and Jamieson picked up 27 scalps in five games.
“With Pant, Holder, and Ashwin, I’ve got six, seven and eight covered, and what that means is that I can go for just pure pace bowlers with nine, ten, and eleven. So who have I got for those three? Shaheen Shah Afridi is in fantastic form; the left-armer swings the ball, he is got very decent pace. I went with Afridi, and I went with Nortje (Anrich Nortje) out and out fast bowler, so I’ve got a left-hander and an out-and-out fast bowler. I wanted a different kind of bowler (for number eleven), and I found that in Kyle Jamieson. Wonderful start to his career. Jamieson will add depth to the batting, bounce that he gets, wonderful control over length, swings a little bit, and I thought if I’ve got Afridi, Nortje and Jamieson, I really don’t need to look further,” Bhogle added further.
Here is Harsha Bhogle’s Test team of 2021:
Rohit Sharma, Dimuth Karunaratne, Marnus Labuschagne, Joe Root, Fawad Alam, Rishabh Pant, Jason Holder, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Anrich Nortje, Kyle Jamieson.